M975.61.253 | Shovel
1875-1900, 19th century
21 x 119 cm
Gift of Mr. Charles deVolpi
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Shovel (2)
Keys to History
In the 19th century, the main tool for clearing snow from the streets of Montreal was the shovel.
Until the beginning of the 20th century, big snowstorms interrupted all activity in the city. Since the citizens were responsible for maintaining the streets, every storm brought everything to a halt while they removed the snow from the streets.
Snow removal was a weighty task. The citizens had to first of all quickly shovel the section of sidewalk in front of their houses, then spread salt or sand on the cleared area to prevent a sheet of ice from forming. Some found this chore so demanding that they hired specialized entrepreneurs to perform the task.
This wooden shovel with a slightly curved handle was cut from a single piece of wood and has no nails or screws.
Clearing snow from the sidewalks took so much work that, according to a cartoon caricature in the weekly "L'Opinion publique", shovelling your neighbour's sidewalk was considered a "symptom of insanity."
Since shovels were no longer sufficient once the snow had hardened, Montrealers used mallets to clear the snow from the sidewalks and streets.
A passer-by injured on a portion of poorly maintained sidewalk could receive compensation from the negligent householder.